Ocean City schools celebrate Black History Month

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OCEAN CITY — February is Black History Month, a time to recognize the contributions of African Americans to society and their role in U.S. history. In Ocean City’s three district school, it is being celebrated daily in various ways.

From music, including popular spirituals, jazz and blues, to books, movies and soul food, students are enjoying a variety of hands on, cross-curricular lessons in black history. 

At Ocean City High School, for the month of February, the morning announcements include “words of wisdom” related to black history. In the first floor hallway, a display board created by members of the school’s history club features prominent African Americans.

“We each do something that adds to the curriculum and enhances history to make it relevant to the student’s lives today,” said Matt Purdue, who teaches history at Ocean City High School.

Each history and social studies class covers particular aspects of black America.

“In U.S. history I we cover the period from 1600 to 1900,” he said. “We study the abolitionist movement of the 19th century, reforms of society that worked to end slavery.”

The Amistad trial, also known as United States v. Libellants and Claimants of the Schooner Amistad, was a United States Supreme Court case resulting from the rebellion of Africans on board the Spanish schooner La Amistad in 1839. The so-called “freedom suit” was unusual because it involved international issues and parties, as well as United States law.

“I have taught both U.S. history I and U.S. history II and the Amistad trial is a very interesting part of our curriculum,” Purdue said.

The case, Purdue said, influenced future U.S. laws and continues to spark discussion in his classroom.

“It generates a lot of really good discussion, on how our legal system evolved through history and affected modern civil rights,” he said. “They learn about its significance to the abolitionist movement.”

Students will also be studying the origins of the abolitionist movement utilizing portions of the film, “Africans in America.”

World history classes featured African current events all month, studying the map of Africa, as well as featuring daily black history trivia. Students are given the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge through a trivia review game and quiz at the end of the month.

In US history II, students will get to study the lives of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and the entire civil rights movement, as well as President Barack Obama.  

“Those students will also be working on an assignment that features 50 questions about black history in America ,as well as writing papers on important African Americans,” Purdue said.  

The history club is sponsoring movies during the hour-long community lunch, including “The Help” and “Eyes on the Prize.” The movies will be shown over three lunch sessions.

Students at the Ocean City Intermediate School will also be participating in Black History Month.

Fourth grade math and science students will be learning about black scientists and mathematicians. Language arts literacy students will be doing a unit about famous black Americans. Social studies classes will enhance the language arts units on biographies, by reading a Harriet Tubman biography, followed by a research project, which includes writing a biography on a famous black American. 

They also study about Rosa Parks in the Scholastic News Weekly Reader, and listen to a read aloud about Ruby Bridges.
Sixth grade language arts literacy students will read a Langston Hughes poem and selections from Action Magazine in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. 

As part of the regular sixth grade music curriculum, the students learn about the importance of spirituals, escape route songs and work songs from the African American slaves. Music students will also discuss blues, jazz, and important black musicians.

In sixth grade consumer science, students have a discussion on “The History of Soul Food.”
Seventh grade language arts literacy students will prepare a Civil Rights Movement research project. Seventh grade social studies students are completing a daily black history trivia assignment, concentrated on the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

“We study the Jim Crowe era,” said seventh grade social studies teacher Michelle Tornblom. “In the trivia contest, we ask them questions, such as which amendments allowed African Americans to vote during the Civil War? It’s the 15th Amendment and the questions spark a lot of learning and discussion.”

Language arts students, she said, are reading books such as “Tom Sawyer” and “Hear My Cry.”

“It’s a nice change of pace and the students really enjoy doing this,” she said. 

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